A sound plan gives strength to New Year’s resolutions
Tuesday, January 03, 2023
If you're starting the new year on the right foot by making resolutions, be careful what you wish for. The resolution might be a challenge with a bigger cost than anticipated.
Setting goals – especially in line with the turn of the calendar – is a noble pursuit. Keep in mind that unless you're highly disciplined, or realistic with your expectations, there can be pitfalls.
According to consumer data company Statista, only 22 percent of Americans stuck to their resolutions one month into 2022. Another 63 percent never made any resolutions, the company's research showed.
Things aren't much better overseas. A recent study from the United Kingdom revealed that nearly two-thirds of respondents abandon their resolutions within a month.
The goal of resolutions is to improve – yourself, your career, your health, your family. Goal-setting is good for the mind, and research shows that having a specific goal not only inspires action toward that end, but increases the chances of completing that goal, because neurons in the brain are rewired to that purpose.
Speaking of the brain, Americans apparently can use some help on that front. A recent Gallup poll shows that only 31 percent of Americans consider their mental health to be "excellent," the lowest rate recorded in polling in more than two decades. Perhaps making plans for the new year can improve that aspect.
If health – mental or otherwise – is at the top of your list for 2023, researchers at Northwestern University recommend starting with sleep.
"Sleep is closely tied to weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and even what we choose to eat," said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, chair of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Fitness and exercise are some resolutions that are easy to take up and to stick with, in part because of the wide variety of outlets. Fitness can include a simple stretching routine at regular intervals, suited to whatever your schedule and determination decide. Exercise can extend to high-intensity workouts or training for a long-distance run.
Just as there's no ceiling for how far you're able to push your body for fitness, there's no floor as well. Every step you take is a move forward from the stationary position where you started. And exercise improves overall mental health, combatting anxiety, stress and depression, according to scores of studies.
If stepping up your game in the workplace is on your list for 2023, you're far from alone. A recent poll commissioned by CSU Global and undertaken by OnePoll shows 56 percent of Americans want to make gains in their professional career in 2023.
How can you accomplish that? Essentially the same way you'd approach any resolution: making a plan, researching the steps and adapting your behavior. Goals, professional development and reaching out to others are the steps most people take to gain a foothold at work.
Here are some pros and cons about New Year's resolutions:
Pro: You're motivated to do better
Resolutions provide motivation to accomplish something, and a roadmap to improvement or betterment. Few people decide to increase behavior that's harmful; for instance, far more people commit to quit or reduce smoking than decide to take up or increase smoking.
Con: Outside forces can limit your goals
If a resolution relies on cooperation or contribution from outside forces, it could end unsuccessfully. Vowing to increase your pay depends on outside forces in the workplace (unless you're self-employed or manage your own salary). Saying that you'll eat healthy in the new year might not take into account all of those business trips that lead to airport dining or lunch meetings with little time left to work off the calories.
Pro: Successful resolutions open the door for further growth
Having a reasonable target not only requires you to give serious thought to your plan, but also factors in points where you might stumble on your way. Resolving to lose weight might lead to better meal planning, shopping habits and improved culinary skills.
Con: High expectations can harm your success rate
Setting goals that are too ambitious might lead to an early exit, or disappointment in failure to reach the overreaching goal. Cut yourself some slack and build in break times so the resolution doesn't wear you down mentally. That could lead to reluctance to set goals in the future.
As with any effort, it all starts with determination and a roadmap. That can give you one resolution to accomplish almost immediately: Make a plan.
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